Bonny Portmore: the ornament tree

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When the great oak of Portmore was break down in 1760, someone wrote a song known as “The Highlander’s Farewell to Bonny Portmore“; in 1796 Edward Bunting picked it up from Daniel Black, an old harpist from Glenoak (Antrim, Northern Ireland), and published it in “Ancient Music of Ireland” – 1840.
The age-old oak was located on the estate of Portmore’s Castle on the banks of Lugh Bege and it was knocked down by a great wind; the tree was already famous for its posture and was nicknamed “the ornament tree“. The oak was cut and the wood sold, from the measurements made we know that the trunk was 13 meters wide.


1032910_tcm9-205039Loch un Phoirt Mhóir (lake with a large landing place) is an almost circular lake in the South-West of Antrim County, Northern Ireland, today a nature reserve for bird protection.
The property formerly belonged to the O’Neill clan of Ballinderry, while the castle was built in 1661 or 1664 by Lord Conway (on the foundations of an ancient fortress) between Lough Beg and Lough Neagh; the estate was rich in centenarian trees and beautiful woods; however, the count fell into ruin and lost the property when he decided to drain Lake Ber to cultivate the land (the drainage system called “Tunny cut” is still existing); the ambitious project failed and the land passed into the hands of English nobles.
In other versions more simply the Count’s dynasty became extinct and the new owners left the estate in a state of neglect, since they did not intend to reside in Ireland. Almost all the trees were cut down and sold as timber for shipbuilding and the castle fell into disrepair.

Bonny Portmore could be understood symbolically as the decline of the Irish Gaelic lords: pain and nostalgia mixed in a lament of a twilight beauty; the dutiful tribute goes to Loreena McKennitt who brought this traditional iris  song to the international attention.
Loreena McKennitt in The Visit 1991
Nights from the Alhambra: live

O bonny Portmore,
you shine where you stand
And the more I think on you the more I think long
If I had you now as I had once before
All the lords in Old England would not purchase Portmore.
O bonny Portmore, I am sorry to see
Such a woeful destruction of your ornament tree
For it stood on your shore for many’s the long day
Till the long boats from Antrim came to float it away.
All the birds in the forest they bitterly weep
Saying, “Where will we shelter or where will we sleep?”
For the Oak and the Ash (1), they are all cutten down
And the walls of bonny Portmore are all down to the ground.
1) coded phrase to indicate the decline of the Gaelic lineage clans

Laura Marling live
Laura Creamer

Lucinda Williams in Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs and Chanteys ANTI 2006

Dan Gibson & Michael Maxwell in Emerald Forest instrumental version
And here I open a small parenthesis recalling a personal episode of a long time ago in which I met an ancient tree: at the time I lived in Florence and I had the opportunity to turn a bit for Tuscany, now I can not remember the location, but I know that I was in the Colli Senesi and it was summer; someone advised us to go and see an old holm oak, explaining roughly to the road; in the distance it seemed we were approaching a grove, in reality it was a single tree whose foliage was so leafy and vast, the old branches so bent, that to get closer to the trunk we had to bow. I still remember after many years the feeling of a presence, a deep and vital breath, and the discomfort that I tried to disturb the place. I do not exaggerate speaking of fear at all, and I think that feeling was the same feeling experienced by the ancient man, who felt in the centenarian trees the presence of a spirit.

Dark-Eyed Sailor, a reily ballad

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The song also known as “Fair Phoebe and her Dark-Eyed Sailor” originally from England, and is dated to a good approximation at the end of the nineteenth century. It is classified as a reily ballad or broken token ballad (because of the love pledge exchanged between the two lovers) on the model of a “return song” that was already the most popular in Classical times: in most of these ballads the man returns home after many years of absence at sea (war), and, not recognized by the woman, he puts her loyalty to the test. The girl, as a serious girl, refuses his courting because she has already been promised. The man so reassured, reveals himself to the woman and the two crown their love with marriage.

sailor-returnThe ballad recalls the archetypal figures of Ulysses and Penelope, when Ulysses, returned twenty years after the war (and his vicissitudes in the seas) to his Ithaca in disguise, is not recognized by his wife.

Collected in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and North America according to A.L. Lloyd all versions have a common matrix in the ballad published on a broadside printed by James Catnach (London 1813-1838) Flanders in “The New Green Mountain Songster” observes”The air to which it is almost universally sung, both in the old-country and American tradition, belongs to another ballad, “The Female Smuggler“.

Steeleye Span from “Hark! The Village Wait” (1970)

Christy Moore from Prosperus 1972

Quilty ( I, II, IV, VI, VII)

Olivia Chaney live The Mark Radcliffe Folk Sessions

As I went a walking (roved out ) one evening fair,
it being the summer(time) to take the air/I spied a female (maiden) with a sailor boy/and I stood to listen, I stood to listen/to hear what they might say.
He said “Young maiden (fair lady)
now why do you roam
all along by yonder Lee?”
She heaved a sigh and the tears they did roll, / “For my dark eyed sailor,
he ploughs the stormy seas.”
“‘Tis seven long years(1) since he left this land,
A ring he took from off his lily-white hand.(2)
One half of the ring is still here with me,
But the other’s rollin’
at the bottom of the sea.”
He said “You can drive him from your mind/for another young man you surely will find.
Love turns a sight and it soon grows cold/ Like a winter’s morning
the hills are white with snow.”
She said “I’ll never forsake my dear
Although we’re parted this many a year/ Genteel(3) he was and a rake(4) like you/ To induce a maiden
to slight the jacket blue(5).”
One half of the ring did young William show
She ran distracted in grief and woe
Sayin’ “William, William, I have gold in store(6)/ For my dark-eyed sailor
has proved his honour long”
There is a cottage by yonder Lee,
the couple live there and do agree.
So maids be true when your lover’s at sea,
For a stormy morning
brings on a sunny day.
1) Seven is a recurring number in ballads to indicate the duration of a separation. The reference to the number seven is not accidental: it is a magic or symbolic number linked to death or change. If a husband left for the war and did not return within seven years, the wife could remarry.
2) in this kind of ballads often appears an object through which the two lovers are recognized, either a gift exchanged or a ring broken in half as in this case
3) for gentle
4) A “rake” was a charming young lover of women, of songs, dedicated to gambling and alcohol, but also a lifestyle of fashion among the English nobles during the 17th century. And yet it is also a term used in a positive sense
5) wearing the blue jacket of the British sailor’s uniform
6) in other versions”I’ve lands and gold For my dark-eyed sailor so manly, true and bold


Caroline and Her Young Sailor Bold

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TITLES: Caroline and Her Young Sailor Bold, Groline and Her Young Sailor Bold, The Young Sailor Bold, The Nobleman ‘s Daughter, Caroline and Her Young Sailor Boy, A Rich Nobleman’s Daughter’, Young Caroline and The Sailor
A love story between a young girl who denies her noble and wealthy family and her wealthy life for the love of a young and handsome sailor. For fear he forgets her, she embarks on the ship disguised as a sailor. When their ship returns to the port of London, the girl goes to her parents to request consent to their marriage.
The theme was very popular among the nineteenth-century broadside and the ballad was popularized by the popular tradition of England, Ireland, Scotland and North America. The melody combined with the text is not unique, here are reported only two: fromJoe Heaney (Rosin The Beau) and from Sara Makem (recorded by Bill Leader at the home of Sara, Keady, County of Armagh in 1967).

The cross-dressing ballads decline the theme of the disguise often combined with the sailor’s (sometimes soldier) farewell with the woman who begs him to take her with him, willing to dress up as a man to stand beside him; the image of a woman-warrior and strong, supported by the power of love and therefore willing to go against her family and social conventions is more a story from a novel than an actual chronicle, the women in those times were subdued to the father first and to the husband later, and very few could win the economic independence (there were then the poor ones who did not care about anyone and who ended up badly in the middle of a street, making all kind of work to barely manage to feed the children). These were the times of marriages combined by families and were based on appropriate alliances and young women were not allowed to fall in love with a handsome black-eyed sailor!

Sarah Makem from Sea Song and Shanties 1994

Andrea Corr from Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys, ANTI- 2006.

Joe Heaney 1964 (here)

There lived a rich Nobleman’s daughter/
Caroline is her name we are told/
One day from her drawing room window
She admired a young sailor bold
She cried – “I’m a Nobleman’s daughter
My income’s five thousand in gold
I forsake both my father and mother
And I’ll marry young sailor bold”
Says William- “Fair lady remember
Your parents you are bound to mind
In sailors there is no dependence
For they leave their true lovers behind”
And she says – “There’s no one could prevent me/
One moment to alter my mind/
In the ships I’ll be off with my true love/
He never will leave me behind”
Three years and a half on the ocean
And she always proved loyal and true
Her duty she did like a sailor
Dressed up in her jacket of blue
When at last they arrived back in England
Straightway to her father she went
“Oh father dear father forgive me
Deprive me forever of gold
Just grant me one favor I ask you
To marry a young sailor bold”
Her father looked upon young William
And love and in sweet unity
“If I be spared till Tomorrow
It’s married this couple shall be”.


“Fire Down Below” the last shanty

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“Fire Down Below” in addition to being the title of a film and a rock song is above all a sea shanty) according to Stan Hugill “the laswt shanty”. Given the theme it was often used as pump chanty but also as capstan chanty.


The authors of the project “Short Sharps Shanties” write: There was a broadside called Fire! Fire! Fire! – printed by the Glasgow Poet’s Box on the 23rd Nov. 1867.  Versions were also printed by Fortey of London and Sanderson of Edinburgh at about the same time. The chorus is obviously related to, if not the origin of, the shanty:Fire! fire! fire!, Now I’s bound to go;
Can’t you give us a bucket of water,
Dere’s a fire down below.
The text is in a faux-Negro patois and describes Aunt Sally nearly dying in a house-fire.  There was also a parody, printed by Such of London at about the same time, where the text is concerned with a country boy’s encounter with a city girl and the more familiar ‘fire down below’ caused by venereal disease.
Fire! fire! fire!, Fire down below;
Let us hope that we shall never see,
A fire down below.
Perhaps surprisingly, neither theme seems to recur in any of the collected versions of the shanty although plenty of contemporary shanty-singers adopt a nudge-nudge-wink-wink view of the chorus. Tozer and Sharp give it as a pumping shanty, Hugill cites it as a favourite for the purpose, and Colcord says that “Almost any of the capstan shanties could be used on the pump-brakes, but a few were kept [as this one is], by the force of convention, for no other use.”
Hugill comments that, of his five versions, Short’s version has “a not so musical pattern. This form has become popular with radio shanty-singers.”  All verses except the last come from Short although, inexplicably, he only gave Sharp the ‘fire in the galley’ verse on the day and subsequently sent him, by post, the other four verses. (tratto da qui)

Jackie Oates from Short Sharp Shanties : Sea songs of a Watchet sailor Vol 1 (su Spotify)

Fire, fire, fire down below,
It’s Fetch a bucket of water girls
There’s fire down below.
Fire in the galley, fire down below.
It’s fetch a bucket of water girls,
There’s fire down below.
fire, fire..
Fire in the bottom fire in the main
It’s fetch a bucket of water girls,
And put it out again.
fire, fire..
As I walked out one morning
all in the month of June
I overheard an irish girl
sing this old song
fire, fire..
Fire in the lifeboat,
fire in the gig(6),
Fire in the pig-stye roasting of the pig.
fire, fire..
Fire up aloft boy  and fire down below,
It’s fetch a bucket of water girls,
There’s fire down below.

Shanty Gruppe Breitling
from Haul the Bowline 2013 

Fire in the galley, fire in the house,
Fire in the beef kid(1), scorching the scouse(2).
Fire, fire, fire down below,
Fetch a bucket of water boys
Fire down below.
Fire in the forepeak(3) fire in the main(4)
fire in the windlass(5) fire in the chain.
Fire in the lifeboat, fire in the gig(6),
Fire in the pig-stye roasting the pig.
Fire on the orlop(7) (cabine) fire in the hold.
Fire in the strong room melting the gold.
Fire round the capstan(5), fire on the mast,
Fire on the main deck, burning it fast.
Fire on .. 

1) Beefkid = small wooden tub in which beef salt is served.
2) It is a traditional dish of Liverpool, that is a meat stew with potatoes, onions, carrots. It is a popular dish of poor cooking. Scouse is also the typical accent of Liverpool (of the popular classes) with clear Celtic influences, the origin of the accent is derived most likely from the English pronunciation by Irish immigrants arrived in Liverpool to look for work. In the 1841 census a quarter of the inhabitants of Liverpool were born in Ireland and again from the census at the beginning of the twenty-first century it was found that 60% of Liverpudlians originated in Ireland.
3) forepeak= the interior part of a vessel that is furthest forward; the part of a ship’s interior in the angle of the bow
4) main= ocean
5) windlass and capstan they are two different “machines” which, however, perform the same function, that of lifting weights by the use of a rope or chain.
6) gig= A light rowboat, powerboat or sailboat, often used as a fast launch for the captain or for a lighthouse keeper. The gig was always designed for speed, and was not used as a working boat.
7) orlop = the name of a lower deck.


This version comes from the Caribbean fishermen from the Isle of Nevis (reported by Roger Abrahams in “Deep the Water, Shallow the Shore”)
Hulton Clint


A decadent version that with the “fire in the lower parts” alludes to the disruptive sexuality of a young girl!

Nick Cave from Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs and Chanteys  ANTI 2006.

She was the parson’s daughter
With her red and rosy cheeks
(Way, hey, hee, hi, ho!)
She went to church on Sunday
And sang the anthem sweet
(‘Cause there’s fire down below)
The parson was a misery
So scraggy and so thin
“Look here, you motherfuckers
If you lead a life of sin.
He took his text from Malachi(1)
And pulled a weary face
Well, I fucked off for Africa
And there, I feel(2) from grace.
The parson’s little daughter
Was as sweet as sugar-candy
I said to her, “us sailors
Would make lovers neat and handy”.
She says to me, “you sailors
Are a bunch of fucking liars
And all of you are bound to hell
To feed the fucking fires”.
Well, there’s fire down below, my lad
So we must do what we oughta
‘Cause the fire is not half as hot
As the parson’s little daughter.
Yes, there’s fire (fire)
Down (down)
Below (below)

1) Malachi was an Old Testament Prophet who lived in the fifth century a. C.
2) found written both as a feel and as a fell


Blow the Wind Southerly

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Blow the Wind Southerly card, disegno di Natalie Reid

Una vecchia melodia del Border (Northumbrian Folk Song) “Blow The Wind Southerly” con un testo andato in stampa nel 1834 nella raccolta The Bishoprick Garland compilata da Sir Cuthbert Sharpe, resa famosa da Kathleen Ferrier (che la registrò nel 1949); così scrive Robert Cummings “il testo di Blow the Wind Southerly u pubblicato per la prima volta in Inghilterra in una raccolta del 1834, canzoni, ballate e vari altri scritti, intitolata “The Bishoprick Garland” a cura di J. Ritson. In realtà, solo una piccola parte di quella poesia è stata usata per questa canzone tradizionale. La melodia probabilmente precede le origini del testo del diciannovesimo secolo. Gli autori di entrambe le parole e la musica sono anonimi, ma la canzone può essere rintracciata nella Contea del Northumbria, nel nord dell’Inghilterra. La piacevole melodia del ritmo è adorabile nel suo fascino sentimentale e nei modi spensierati e folk. Ha un contorno a forma di U [il fraseggio della melodia è a forma di U] e, stranamente, la sua frase di chiusura ha una sorprendente somiglianza con le ultime note della famosa melodia di “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”. I due temi sono d’altra parte di una diversa espressione emotiva, Blow the Wind Southerly è a stento gioviale nel suo significato di desiderio, ma è dolce e leggero nella sua malinconia. Il testo parla di una giovane donna che implora il vento di soffiare a sud per portare a riva la nave del suo amante. Questa deliziosa canzone piacerà alla maggior parte degli ascoltatori interessati alla canzone tradizionale.” (tratto da qui)

Una melodia romantica ma triste che è eseguita spesso nel canto lirico con ensemble orchestrali o cameristici: sebbene la versione in frammento non sia esplicita, sappiamo che si tratta di un lamento, l’uomo è morto in mare e la donna che canta ritorna ossessivamente a scrutare il mare nella vana speranza del suo ritorno.

Andreas Scholl & Orpheus Chamber Orchestra in Wayfaring Stranger – Folksongs 2001

Lisa Hannigan live, 

Blow the wind southerly,
southerly, southerly,
Blow the wind south
o’er the bonny blue sea;
Blow the wind southerly,
southerly, southerly,
Blow bonnie breeze, my lover to me.
They told me last night
there were ships in the offing,
And I hurried down
to the deep rolling sea;
But my eye could not see
it wherever might be it,
The barque (1) that is bearing
my lover to me.
I stood by the lighthouse
the last time we parted,
Till darkness came down
o’er the deep rolling sea,
And no longer I saw
the bright bark of my lover.
Blow, bonny breeze
and bring him to me.
Oh, is it not sweet to hear
the breeze singing,
As lightly it comes
o’er the deep rolling sea?
But sweeter and dearer by far
when ‘tis bringing,
The barque of my true love
in safety to me.
Traduzione italiana Cattia Salto
Soffia vento del Sud,
del Sud, del Sud
soffia vento del sud
sul mare azzurro
Soffia vento del Sud,
del Sud, del Sud
portami dolce brezza, il mio amore
Mi hanno detto ieri sera
che c’erano delle navi in vista
e mi sono precipitata giù
verso il mare profondo,
ma i miei occhi non riuscivano a scorgere dove potesse essere
il brigantino che porta
il mio amore verso di me
Stavo accanto al faro
l’ultima volta che ci siamo separati finchè sopraggiunse l’oscurità
sul mare profondo
e non vedevo più
il bel brigantino del mio amore.
Soffia dolce brezza
e portalo da me!
Oh non è dolce sentire
mormorare la brezza
mentre leggera
viene sul mare profondo?
Ma di gran lunga più dolce e cara quando porta
il brigantino del mio amore
in salvo da me.

1) barque significa genericamente barca (bark) e nello specifico indica un brigantino (o brigantino a palo)

Stessa melodia per THE BOSTON COME-ALL-YE


Blow The Wind Southerly

Blow the Wind Southerly card, design from Natalie Reid

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An old melody of the Border (Northumbrian Folk Song) “Blow The Wind Southerly” with a text printed in 1834 in the collection “The Bishoprick Garland” compiled by Sir Cuthbert Sharpe, made famous by Kathleen Ferrier (who recorded it in 1949); Robert Cummings writes  “The text to Blow the Wind Southerly was first published in England in an 1834 collection of songs, ballads, and various other writings called The Bishoprick Garland and was edited by J. Ritson. Actually, only a small part of that poem was used for this traditional song. The melody probably predates the early nineteenth century origins of the text. The authors of both the words and music are anonymous, but the song can be traced to Northumbrian County in northern England. The leisurely paced melody is lovely in its sentimental charm and carefree, folk-ish manner. It has a U-shaped contour, and, oddly, its closing phrase bears a striking resemblance to the last notes in the famous melody to “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” The two themes are otherwise of a different emotional cast, Blow the Wind Southerly is hardly jovial in its sense of longing, but it is gentle and light in its melancholy. The text speaks of a young woman beseeching the wind to blow southerly to bring her lover’s ship to shore. This delightful song will appeal to most listeners with an interest in traditional song.” (from here)

A romantic but sad melody that is often performed in lyric singing with orchestral or chamber ensembles: although the fragmented version is not explicit, we know that it is a lament, the man died at sea and the singing woman returns obsessively to scrutinize the sea in the vain hope of his return.

Andreas Scholl & Orpheus Chamber Orchestra from Wayfaring Stranger – Folksongs 2001

Lisa Hannigan live, 

Blow the wind southerly,
southerly, southerly,
Blow the wind south
o’er the bonny blue sea;
Blow the wind southerly,
southerly, southerly,
Blow bonnie breeze, my lover to me.
They told me last night
there were ships in the offing,
And I hurried down
to the deep rolling sea;
But my eye could not see
it wherever might be it,
The barque (1) that is bearing
my lover to me.
I stood by the lighthouse
the last time we parted,
Till darkness came down
o’er the deep rolling sea,
And no longer I saw
the bright bark of my lover.
Blow, bonny breeze
and bring him to me.
Oh, is it not sweet to hear
the breeze singing,
As lightly it comes
o’er the deep rolling sea?
But sweeter and dearer by far
when ‘tis bringing,
The barque of my true love
in safety to me.

1) barque generally means boat (bark) and specifically indicates a brig 



The Dreadnought shanty

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A sea song about The Dreadnought an American packet ship launched in 1853, flagship of the “Red Cross Line”, dubbed “The Wild Boat of the Atlantic”: competing companies like the Swallow Tail and the Black Ball never succeeded in exceed its performance. Yet the era of the great sailing ships was over and her life seems to be the swan song.

A red cross, the company’s logo, was drawn on her fore-topsail, and she could carry up to 200 passengers.

Montague Dawson (1890–1973) The Red Cross – ‘Dreadnought

The Dreadnought sailed into the Atlantic, mostly on the New York-Liverpoo route, to her sinking to the infamous Cape Horn after she set sail from Liverpool to San Francisco (1869).

Derry Down, Down, Derry Down

According to Stan Hugill this song was a forebitter sung on the melody known as “La Pique” or “The Flash Frigate” (which recalls “Villikins and His Dinah”). Even Kipling in his book “Captains Courageous” has it sing by fishermen on the Banks of Newfoundland.
In the capstan shanty version a longer refrain is added, sung in chorus
Bound away! Bound away! 
where the wide [wild] waters flow,
Bound away to the west’ard
in the Dreadnaught we’ll go!

The melody with which the shanty is associated is not univocal, since the “The Dom Pedro” tune is also used. The forebitter version bears the refrain of a single verse, a nonsense phrase sometimes used in the most ancient ballads. The melody is sad, looking like a lament to the memory of a famous wrecked ship; while praising her merits it’s a farewell at the time of sailing ships, now outclassed by steam ships.

Ewan MacColl

Iggy Pop & Elegant Too  from “Son Of Rogues Gallery ‘Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys” ANTI 2013

The Dreadnoughts,
the Vancouver band took its name not from the nineteenth-century packet ship but from an innovative battle ship called “armored monocaliber” developed since the early twentieth century (Dreadnought, from English “I fear nothing”)
(stanzas I, III, IV, V)

full version (here)
There’s a flash packet,
a flash packet of fame,
She hails to (from) New York
and the Dreadnought’s her name;
She’s bound to the westward
where the strong winds blow,
Bound away in the Dreadnought,
to the westward we go.
Derry down, down, down derry down.
Now, the Dreadnought
she lies in the river Mercey,
Waiting for the Independence
to tow her to sea;
Out around the Rock Light
where the salt tides do flow,
Bound away to to the westward
in the Dreadnought, we’ll go.
III (1)
(O, the Dreadnought’s a-howlin’
down the wild Irish Sea,
Her passengers merry,
with hearts full of glee,)
As sailors like lions
walk the decks to and fro,
She’s the Liverpool packet,
O Lord, let her go!

IV (2)
O, the Dreadnought’s a-sailin’
the Atlantic so wide,
While the high roaring seas
roll along her black sides,
(With her sails tightly set
for the Red Cross to show,
She’s the Liverpool packet,
O Lord, let her go!)
Now, a health to the Dreadnought,
to all her brave crew,
To bold Captain Samuel (3),
his officers, too,
Talk about your flash packets,
Swallowtail and Black Ball (4),
The Dreadnaught’s the flier
that outsails them all.

1)  TheDreadnoughts sings:
With the gale at her back/ What a sight does she make
A skippin’ so merry/With the west in her wake
2)  the Dreadnoughts sings:
With her sails tight as wires/And the Black Flag to show
All away to the Dreadnought/To the westward we’ll go
3) her first captain was called Samuel Samuels,, “In his own words: “Swearing, which appeared to me so essential in the make-up of an officer, I found degrading in a gentleman and I prohibited its indulgence. I also insisted that the crew should be justly treated by the officers.” He seems to have known when to turn a blind eye to the particular brand of justice which had to be handed out to over-troublesome “packet rats” by his mates. To the passengers and his officers he was the model of the young clipper captain, respected, well-groomed and quietly spoken, but always perfectly self-confident and calm in an emergency. The Dreadnought undoubtedly owed her conspicuous success at a difficult time to the personality of her master.(from here) the Dreadnoughts sings ” To bold captain Willy”
4) companies competing in the “Red Cross Line”


Hulton Clint sings it on the tune “Dom Pedro.” It is the most extensive version of the previous one, with some variations

There’s a saucy wild packet,
a packet of fame;
She belongs to New York,
and the Dreadnought’s her name;
She is bound to the westward
where the wide water flow;
Bound away to the west’ard
in the Dreadnought we’ll go.
Derry down, down, down derry down
The time of her sailing
is now drawing nigh;
Farewell, pretty maids,
we must bid you good-bye;
Farewell to old England
and all we hold dear,
Bound away in the Dreadnought,
to the west’ard we’ll steer.
And now we are hauling
out of Waterlock dock,
Where the boys and the girls
on the pierheads they do flock;
They will give us their cheers
as their tears they do flow,
Saying, “God bless the Dreadnought, where’er she may go!”
Now, the Dreadnought she lies
in the Mersey so free,
Waiting for the Independence
to tow her to sea,
For to around that rock light
where the Mersey does flow,
Bound away in the Dreadnought,
where’er we’ll go.
Now the Dreadnaught’s a-howling
down the wild Irish Sea,
Where the passengers are merry,
their hearts full of glee,
her sailors like tigers
walk the decks to and fro,
Bound away in the Dreadnought,
to the west’ard we’ll go
Now, the Dreadnought’s
a-sailing the Atlantic so wide,
While the high rolling seas
roll along her black sides,
With her topsails set taut
for the Red Cross to show
Bound away in the Dreadnought,
to the west’ard we’ll go

Now the Dreadnought’s has reached the banks of Newfoundland,
Where the water’s so green
and the bottom so sand;
Where the fish in the waves
They swim to and fro,
Bound away in the Dreadnought,
with the ice and the snow
Now the Dreadnought’s lying
on the long .. shore
as we have done before
? your main topsail ?
Bound away in the Dreadnought,
to the west’ard we’ll go
And now we arrived
in New York once more,
We’ll go to the land we adore,
we call for strong liquors
and merry we’ll be
Drink to the health to the Dreadnought, where’er she may be.
So here’s health to the Dreadnought
and all her brave crew;
To bold Captain Samuels
and his officers too.
Talk about your flash packets, Swallowtail and Black Ball,
but the Dreadnought’s
he clipper to beat one and all
Now my story is finish
and my tale it is told
forgive me, old shipmates,
if you think that I’m bold;
for this song was composed
while the watch was below
and at the health
in the Dreadnought we’ll go.


Row me bullies boys row (Alan Doyle)

Leggi in italiano

The most recent version of this popular sea shanty comes from the movie “Robin Hood Prince of Thieves” by Ridley Scott (2010), and was written for the occasion by Alan Doyle (front man of the Canadian band Great Big Sea), recalling the melody and the structure of the Liverpool Judies refrain, with a text that remind the typical phrases of these seafaring songs; so obviously everyone adds the verse that he likes.

russel crow crew
I’ll sing you a song, it’s a song of the sea
I’ll sing you a song if you’ll sing it with me
While the first mate is playing the captain aboard
He looks like a peacock with pistols and sword
The captain likes whiskey, the mate, he likes rum
Us sailers like both but we can’t get us none
Well farewell my love it is time for to roam
The old blue peters are calling us home

In Taberna  

Strangs and Stout

And it’s row me bully boys
We’re in a hurry boys
We got a long way to go
And we’ll sing and we’ll dance
And bid farewell to France
And it’s row me bully boys row.
I’ll sing you a song,
it’s a song of the sea
Row me bully boys row
We sailed away
in the roughest of waters
And it’s row, me bully boys, row
But now we’re returning
so lock up your daughters
And it’s row, me bully boys, row
Well farewell my love
it is time for to roam
Row me bully boys row
The old blue peters
are calling us home
And it’s row me bully boys row

Barnacle Buoys

When we set sail for Bristol
the sun was like crystal
And it’s row, me bully boys, row
We found muddier water
when passing Bridge Water
And it’s row, me bully boys row
And it’s row, me bully boys,
we’re in a hurry, boys
We’ve got a long way to go
And we’ll drink as we glance
– a last look at France
row, me bully boys, row
We sailed away
in the roughest of waters
But now we’re returning
so lock up your daughters
So we’ve been away
for many a day now
So we’ll fill out our sails
and drink all the ale now
So we’ll drink and we’ll feast
with no care in the least
And soon, as we’re craving’,
we’ll sail up to Avon
As we tied up in Bristol,
me heart was a-thumpin’
Then I found my girl Alice,
who took me a-scrumpin’

and so on!


here is the italian versione in the movie

Voga voga, voga un po’ di più (amico)

un altro po’, dove si va non lo so
Balliamo cantiamo e la Francia lasciamo
voga un altro po’ vai
Voga voga, voga un po’ di più
Voga un altro po’ dove si va non lo so
La Francia non la rivedremo giammai
Voga amico mio vai
E’ tardi oramai voi siete già nei guai
Voga amico mio vai
O voi non scherzate oppure rischiate
Voga voga un po’ di più
Ma non si può stare troppo via dal mare
Voga voga, voga un po’ di più
Partiamo di nuovo per non ritornare
Voga amico mio vai

Liverpool judies (Row bullies row)
New York
from Robin Hood (Alan Doyle)


Row, bullies, row Liverpool Judies to Frisco


Leggi in italiano

Here is a sea shanty that ended up in the repertoire of pirate songs, and also in the movie “Robin Hood Prince of Thieves” by Ridley Scott (2010) (see film version). The title with which it is best known rather than “Liverpool Judies” is anyway “Row, bullies, row”.

An extremely popular maritime song used as reported by Stan Hugill as Capstan shanty (but also as an forebitter) it is grouped into two main versions (with two different but interchangeable melodies): one in which our sailor lands in San Francisco, the other in New York.
Both versions, however, always end up with the drunken or drugged boy who wakes up again on a ship where he has been boarded by a small group of crimps
Fraudulent conscription takes the name of “shanghaiinge“, especially in the north-west of the United States.


Probably the most popular version, at least on the web, A. L. Lloyd comments :”The song of the Liverpool seaman who sailed to San Francisco with the intention of staying there, but who got himself shanghaied back to Merseyside again, was a favourite rousing forebitter, sometimes used at capstan work when the spokes were spinning easy.”

The Spinners 1966

Ewan MacColl & A.L. Lloyd

Sean Lennon & Charlotte Kemp Muhl from Son Of Rogues Gallery ‘Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys ANTI 2013 CD1

Assassin’s Creed Rogue (Sea Shanty Edition)

From Liverpool to ‘Frisco
a-rovin’ I went,
For to stay in that country
was my good intent.
But drinkin’ strong whiskey
like other damn fools,
Oh, I was very soon shanghaied(1) to Liverpool
singin’ Roll, roll, roll bullies, roll(2)!

Them Liverpool judies (3)
have got us in tow
I shipped in near Lasker
lying out(4) in the Bay,
we was waiting for a fair wind
to get under way.
The sailors on board
they was all sick and sore,
they’d drunk all their whiskey
and couldn’t get no more.
One night off Cape Horn
I willl never forget,
and It’s oh but a sigh(5)
when I think of it yet.
We was going bows
under the sail’s was all wet(6),
She was runnin’ (doin’) twelve knots wid her mainsky sunset (7).
Well along comes the mate
in his jacket o’ blue(8)
He’s lookin’ for work for them outlaws(9) to do.
Oh, it’s “Up tops and higher!(10)”
he loudly does roar,
“And it’s lay aloft Paddy (11),
ye son of a-whore!”
And now we are sailing
down onto the Line,
when I think of it now,
oh we’ve had a hard (good) time.
The sailors box-haulin'(12)
them yards all around
to catch(beat) that flash clipper  (13)(packet) the Thatcher MacGowan.
And now we’ve arrived
in the Bramleymoor Dock(14),
and all them flash judies
on the pierhead do flock.
Our barrel’s run dry
and me six quid advance,
I think (guess) it’s high time
for to get up and dance.
Here’s a health to our Captain wherever he may be,
he’s a devil (bucko) on land
and a bucko (bully) at sea,
for as for the first mate,
that lousy (dirty) old brute,
We hope when he dies
straight to hell he’ll skyhoot.

1) The verb “shanghaiinge” was coined in the mid-1800s to indicate the practice of violent or fraudulent conscription of sailors on english and american ships (it was declared illegal by the Seamen’s Act only in 1915!). The shanghaiing was widespread especially in the north-west of the United States. The men who ran this trade were called “crimps”.
The term implies the forced transport on board of the unfortunate on duty, sedated with a blow on the head or completely drunk. Upon awakening the poor man discovers that he has been hired as a sailor on the ship and he can not do anything but keep the commitment. Also written “I soon got transported back to Liverpool
2) or row (rowe is the Scottish word that stands for roll). The chorus wants to recall perhaps the use as rowing song by the whalers
3) The word “judy” is a dialectal expression of Liverpool to indicate a generic girl (not necessarily a prostitute); flash judies is a girlfriends. In the maritime language it became synonymous with favorable wind. AL Lloyd explains “When the ship was sailing at a fast speed, the sailors would say:” The girls have got hold of the tow-rope today. ”
4) other versions say “I shipped on the Alaska” or “A smart Yankee packet lies out”
5) ‘Tis oft-times I sighs
6) or: She was divin’ bows under with her sailors all wet
7) mainsky sunset is a way to give meaning to another misunderstood word: main skys’l set: or main skysail set- skysail = A set sail very high, above the royals.
8)  a hell of a stew
9) us sailors
10) “Fore tops’l halyards
11) most of the crews on the packet ship were Irish
12) box-Haulinga method of veering or jibing a square rigged ship, without progressing to leeward appreciably. It is performed by heading bow to windward until most speed is lost, but steerage way is still barely maintained. The bow is then turned back downwind to the side it came from, aftermost sails are brailed up to spill the wind and to keep them from counteracting the turning force of the foresails, and the ship allowed to pivot quickly downwind without advancing. They are, however, extended as soon as the ship, in veering, brings the wind on the opposite quarter, as their effort then contributes to assist her motion or turning. Box-hauling is generally performed when the ship is too near the shore to have room for veering in the usual way. (Falconer- 1779) from here
13 )the clippers were always competing with each other to obtain the shortest crossing time
14) Bramley-Moore Dock is a port basin on the Marsey River (Liverpool): it was inaugurated in 1848

To listen to the second melody with which the song is matched
Jimmy Driftwood from Driftwood at Sea 1962


Clancy Brothers version for  “Treasure Island” tv serie

On the Hispaniola (1)
lying out in the bay,
A-waitin’ for a fair wind
to get under way.
The sailors all drunk
and their backs is all sore,
Their rum is all gone
and they can’t get no more.
Row, Row, bullies, row!
Them Liverpool girls
they have got us in tow. (2)
One night at Cape Horn
we was crossing the line
When I think on it
now we sure had a good time
She was divin’ bows under,
her sailors all wet,
She was doin’ twelve knots
with her mainskys’l set.
Here’s a health to the Captain where ‘er he may be,
He’s a friend to the sailor
on land and at sea,
But as for our chief mate,
the dirty ol’ brute
I hope when he dies straight
to hell he’ll sky hoot

1) Hispaniola is the schooner purchased by Mr. Trelawney to go in search of the Treasure Island
2) the term has become in the seafaring jargon synonymous with favorable winds that drive home (a fast spinning ship)

Liverpool judies (Row bullies row)
New York
from Robin Hood (Alan Doyle)


The Ship in Distress sea ballad

Leggi in italiano

“You Seamen Bold” or “The Ship in Distress” is a sea song that tries to describe the horrors suffered on a ship adrift in the ocean and without more food on board. Probably the origin begins with a Portuguese ballad of the sixteenth century (in the golden age of the Portuguese vessels), taken from the French tradition with the title La Corte Paille.

This further version was very popular in the south of England
A. L. Lloyd writes ‘The story of the ship adrift, with its crew reduced to cannibalism but rescued in the nick of time, has a fascination for makers of sea legends. Cecil Sharp, who collected more than a thousand songs from Somerset, considered The Ship in Distress to be the grandest tune he had found in that country.’ (from here)
Louis Killen

Martin Carhty & Dave Swarbrick from But Two Came By 1968Marc Almond from Son Of Rogues Gallery ‘Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys ANTI 2013

You seamen bold who plough the ocean
See dangers landsmen never know.
It’s not for honour and promotion;
No tongue can tell what they undergo.
In the blusterous wind and the great dark water
Our ship went drifting on the sea,
Her rigging (1) gone, and her rudder broken,
Which brought us to extremity (2).
For fourteen days, heartsore and hungry,
Seeing but wild water and bitter sky,
Poor fellows, they stood in a totter,
A-casting lots as to which should die.
The lot (3) it fell on Robert Jackson,
Whose family was so very great.
‘I’m free to die, but oh, my comrades,
Let me keep look-out till the break of day.’
A full-dressed ship like the sun a-glittering(4)
Came bearing down to their relief.
As soon as this glad news was shouted,
It banished all their care and grief.
The ship brought to, no longer drifting,
Safe in Saint Vincent, Cape Verde, she gained.
You seamen all, who hear my story,
Pray you’ll never suffer the like again (5).

1) Marc say  headgear
2) extremity: bring to the extremes to be intended also in a moral sense
3 )the one who pulled the shorter straw was the “winner”, and sacrificed himself for the benefit of the survivors, this practice was called  ”the custom of the sea”: to leave the choice of the sacrificial victim to fate, it excluded the murder by necessity from being a premeditated murder
4) the juxtaposition between the two verses with the man ready for the sacrifice and sighting at dawn of the ship that will rescue them, it wants to mitigate the harsh reality of cannibalism, a horrible practice to say but that is always lurking in the moments of desperation and as an extreme resource for survival. In reality we do not know if the ship was only dreamed of by the sacrificial victim.
5) surviving sailors rarely resume the sea after the cases of cannibalism (see for example the Essex whaling story). In 1884 an English court condemned two of the three sailors of the “Mignonette” yacht who had killed Richard Parker, the 17-year-old cabin boy (the third had immunity because he agreed to testify); the death sentence was commuted at a later time in six months in prison. A curious case is that Edgar Allan Poe in 1838 in “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket ” tells of four survivors forced into a lifeboat who decide to rely on the “law of the sea”, the cabin boy that pulled the shorter straw was called Richard Parker!

Little Boy Billy
The Banks of Newfoundland